Re: Fermi Paradox in the news

Date: Tue Oct 24 2000 - 11:25:22 MDT

Jason Joel Thompson writes:
> Everything. We have an example. We have a single data point. To the
> question: "Does intelligence emerge as a result of the nature of the
> universe?" we can answer yes. (Unless you believe in a 'Creator.' Er,
> nope, actually, even then.)
> Does this mean that there is necessarily intelligent life elsewhere in the
> universe? No. It doesn't. If we discover one other intelligence, does
> this mean that there is necessarily more than two intelligences in the
> universe? No. It doesn't. It is an observation that gives us insight into
> what's going on 'out there' and leads us to make predictive statements.
> Theory my man, theory. Assumptions in the face of limited knowledge.

All I think you can say from this is, if the universe is infinite in
spatial extent, roughly homogeneous (about the same everywhere), and
without special long-distance forces to prevent it from happening, then
the existence of intelligent life here on earth implies that intelligent
life will appear elsewhere. Furthermore, there will be an infinite
number of planets where intelligent life exits.

You can go beyond this and say that not only intelligent life will exist,
but life like our own. In fact, humans genetically identical to ourselves
will exist somewhere, in an infinite number of places. And in fact,
beings identical to ourselves, to you and me, exist an infinite number
of times in the infinite universe, thinking our own thoughts, plus all
possible variations on them.

However, in a finite universe, a single observation does not give you
grounds to make these predictions, or to assign a probability to them.
To do that, we need a theory which tells us how likely the evolution of
intelligence is. And unfortunately at present our observations do not
allow us to narrow the range of possibilities enough to give a meaningful
answer to the question.

I believe that in the next 100-200 years (year-2000 years, that is, not
super-advanced, futuristic years), we will be able to get answers to these
questions by running simulations and experiments which will shed more
light on how easy it is for life, for complexity, and for intelligence
to evolve. We may also get better models for solar system evolution
which will help us to pin down the likelihood of earth-like planets.
All this will give us a more sound basis for predicting the frequency
of intelligent life in the universe.

But until then, a single observation that intelligent life exists does
not really shed light on the probability that other such life exists.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:50:18 MDT